Laytonwoman3rd (Linda) Trundles into 2012
This topic was continued by Laytonwoman's 2012 Summertime reading.
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Sogni Vittorio Matteo Corcos (1859-1933)
In keeping with a theme I started last year, I will top my threads with an image of someone reading (or at least in the presence of books). I used a few of my favorite authors in 2011, and may scout around for more of those. In the meantime, I ask this lovely lady to hold my place until the New Year actually arrives.
Here's the link to my last thread for 2011.
A Little Summing-up of 2011 Reading:
Top Fiction Reads of 2011
Kings of the Earth by Jon Clinch
Gates of November by Chaim Potok
Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Top Non-Fiction Reads of 2011
It wasn't a big non-fiction year for me, and I mean to remedy that in 2012. But these were the best of what I did read --all memoirs, as you will see.
West With the Night by Beryl Markham
A House in Flanders by Michael Jenkins
My Reading Life by Pat Conroy
HONORABLE MENTION: These are the one that surprised me, because I enjoyed them despite the fact that their authors are not among my favorites:
Washington Square by Henry James
I Lock My Door Upon Myself by Joyce Carol Oates
Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
MY 2012 READING:
(*Indicates a library book)
Titles link to the post where I discuss the book.
MAY in which I vow to read and review all those ER books languishing on my shelf and maybe do just a little of the MURDER and MAYHEM thing as well.
37. Red Bird
36. The United States Coast Guard and National Defense by Thomas P. Ostrom
35. Townie by Andre Dubus, III
34. Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton
*33. My Lucky Life in and out of Show Business by Dick Van Dyke (Audio)
32. Hope: A Tragedy by Shalom Auslander An ER selection.
31. WYRD SISTERS by Terry Pratchett
APRIL READING AT WILL
30. Singer: An Album edited by Ilan Stavans
29 The Rosewood Casket by Sharyn McCrumb
28.1 In the Dark Streets Shineth by David McCullough
*28. The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley (audio)
27. Towards Zero by Agatha Christie
26. The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig
25. Travels With Myself and Another by Martha Gellhorn
MARCH MYSTERY MARCH
Most of my reads this month will be in the mystery/suspense/crime genres, or will have some connection thereto.
24. Fridays with Red by Bob Edwards. The only mystery about this one is why I bought it, and why I read it. Which is not a criticism of the book.
23. A View of the Harbour by Elizabeth Taylor
22. In the Woods by Tana French
21. Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch by Alice Hegan Rice
20. When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson
19. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman Connection to Mystery March: I was inspired to read it now by visiting with Dr. Siri Paiboun.
18. Speaking in Tongues by Jeffery Deaver
17. Thirty-Three Teeth by Colin Cotterill
16. The Lucky Cat by the great mystery-writing team of Frances and Richard Lockridge.
FEBRUARY CABIN FEVER MONTH (Reading from the Public Library mostly)
15. The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander
*14. Brother, I'm Dying by Edwidge Danticat
*13. Dissolution by C. J. Sansom
12. Palladian by Elizabeth Taylor
*11. Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward/
10. Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
*9 The Girl in the Blue Beret by Bobbie Ann Mason
*8 Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls
7. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
*6. The Vesuvius Club by Mark Gatiss
JANUARY Orange January
5. Accordion Crimes by Annie Proulx Shortlisted for the Orange Prize in 1997
4.2 DNF Swamplandia! by Karen Russell A totally baffling Orange nominee
4. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson Should have been an Orange nominee, and Robinson did win one later on, so I'm counting it as an Honorary Orange read.
3. At Mrs. Lippincote's by Elizabeth Taylor
2. Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel Short-listed for the Orange Prize in 2006
1. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
I bought Catey a calendar for Christmas called 'The Reading Woman' and it is filled with paintings of women reading (or close to books.) Too bad the one up top was not included.
Glad to see you rejoining us for 2012, Linda!
Stasia, that's odd, because I found that painting on the 2012 "Reading Woman" calendar my daughter gave me for Christmas! I searched the name of the painting on the internet, and found the image I used for my thread. It's the August page.
HAPPY NEW YEAR, dear Linda!
I'm bringing a star and a hope that 2012 bests 2011 in wonderful books and conversation!
I had a "Reading Woman" calendar for 2011 and loved it.
#8: Maybe it is on the calendar and I just overlooked it! I do not have Catey home with me any more so that I can check.
Happy New Year, Linda!
Crumb, I should have done a place holder at No. 2 for my list! Well, it will have to be in No. 1, I guess.
Plan your work, work your plan, as an incredibly irritating man once said.
I didn't either, Linda, noticing later that organised people had put place holders in spots. So I'm up in the one spot too. Good thing these things have lycra in 'em.
Lovely picture. The woman looks a little like my sister, although taller and much better dressed!
#13 Who might he have been?
I find myself, as this new year begins, in the very strange situation of reading a book by Ernest Hemingway (A Moveable Feast) and enjoying it very much. The world MAY be ending this year after all!
My piano teacher, though it's possible he was quoting someone else.
Also: who are you, and what have you done with my mother?
>17 lycomayflower:: Also: who are you, and what have you done with my mother?
1. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway Hemingway's memoir of living in Paris among the ex-pats in the 1920's, written much later and published posthumously. It's a lovely read, presenting us with a gentle romantic picture of what life was like when you were young, in love and could live on next-to-nothing. Even though this is clearly based on his life with his first wife, and the people are all real and the names have not been changed (Fitzgerald, Joyce, Gertrude Stein, Sylvia Beach) the Scribner Classics edition contains this amazing disclaimer: "This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental." Hemingway himself, in the preface (written in 1960), puts it a bit differently: "If the reader prefers, this book may be regarded as fiction." Hemingway was a great one for the "truth" of things. So, did it all really happen the way he tells it, or didn't it? The principals are all dead now, so we'll never really know for sure. But isn't it pretty to think so?
I bought A Moveable Feast after seeing the movie Midnight in Paris last year, and then just let it languish unread on my shelves, because I don't really like Hemingway. Your favourable opinion makes me think I should give it a try though!
I was going to mention the movie Midnight in Paris too. Have you seen it? It's a great film and Hemingway features prominently, speaking in the style of his writing. Rather funny. I haven't read A Moveable Feast because, like Cait, I'm not much of a fan. But I'm tempted now ...
Chiming in as another not-so-big-Hemingway-fan who did in fact like A Moveable Feast. It's been a long long time, though. Maybe I should give his stuff another try?
*fans Richard with palm leaf* I did like it. I am definitely not a fan of Hemingway, as many of you know. Although I admire his skill at times, I can't grab on to his characters and their motivations. I just shake my head at The Old Man and the Sea, sorry Stasia and Donna. I read something of his from time to time, just to be sure I'm not stubbornly clinging to an old impression. And I do find his life and loves of some *ahem* academic interest. A Moveable Feast is certainly recognizable Hemingway, but it isn't typical Hemingway. I have not seen Midnight in Paris, and will investigate.
I never liked Hemingway either but then loved A Moveable Feast. It didn't seem to have much in common, either stylistically or thematically, with his other work.
Never thought I'd see the day. Maybe 2012 is going to be a ripper of a year after all.
While not being a Hemmingway fan, I too really enjoyed A Moveable Feast when I read it last year. :)
Hi, Linda ~ Just stopping by to wish you a Happy New Year. Lovely picture. Reminds me of my daughter a little, especially the attitude she is displaying. Not the clothes, of course.
I also enjoyed A Moveable Feast too when I read it a couple of years ago.
Oh such an elegant picture, Linda! Happy New Year and dropping a star!
I do like your pictures. They add a nice touch to your threads. My favorite picture was of the old woman I wanted to sit down and talk with her.
I read your review of The Day the Music Died You had some interesting insights into the author's inability to keep his timeline straight. I still have a memory of watching the fire hoses being used on people. When they got hit with the water it was like they were in a hurricane.
Being the amateur historian that I am I probably would have shut the book. That's why I can't watch movie or television depictions of historical events.
I do like your pictures. They add a nice touch to your threads. My favorite picture was of the old woman I wanted to sit down and talk with her.
I read your review of The Day the Music Died You had some interesting insights into the author's inability to keep his timeline straight. I still have a memory of watching the fire hoses being used on people. When they got hit with the water it was like they were in a hurricane.
Being the amateur historian that I am I probably would have shut the book. That's why I can't watch movie or television depictions of historical events.
Look at all the great visitors....thanks for dropping by, everyone! Bill, I would dearly love to sit down and have a nice talk with Eudora Welty over a cup of tea and some oatmeal cookies. Have to be satisfied with reading her prose or gazing at her amazing photographs.
I sure do hate sloppy research. When I can hear the clang of a mistake so clearly, you know it's a bad one. I just read an article in American Heritage magazine, of all places, that had a glaring historical error in the caption of one of the accompanying photographs. I will probably have to drop them a note about that one.
38> Hi Linda,
I got to see a wonderful exhibit of Eudora Welty's photos at the Atlanta History Museum last year. She really had a great eye!
I have her book, Stephen, but I would love to see the prints in a gallery. Was that a traveling exhibit, do you know? She also had a really great ear, and a captivating voice. How I wish I could have known that lady.
It was a traveling exhibit, developed by the Museum of Mobile, which toured the South last year. Seems to have closed now. Here's a bit of information about it: http://carnegiearts.org/2011/04/20/eudora-welty-exposures-and-reflections-2/
She was, indeed, an extraordinary artist.
Unfinished business from last year:
I left a book unnamed in my reading list from last year, due to a slight impropriety on my part in reading a book before delivering it as a birthday gift. That mystery has now been revealed, if you care to read about it.
2. Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel This book is most definitely not for everyone, as evidenced by the number of readers in the Orange January/July group who picked it for their first read of 2012's Orange challenge and put it down (at least one without finishing it) with feelings ranging from disappointment to disgust. I found it quite good, if not nearly the equal of other Mantel novels I have read. It's necessary to let yourself slip into another world, much as you must do with the Harry Potter novels, where the natural laws we all take for granted are superseded by another set of rules that are not at all congenial to those bound by them. Alison Hart is a professional psychic beset by a mangled cadre of "fiends" from the other side; a heartless, thoroughly unlikeable assistant; and a paranoid lot of neighbors who see terrorists and prowlers in every shifting shadow, poisoned soil and noxious plants in every patch of untended garden. We gradually come to understand that much of what torments her from the spirit world has a basis in her own violent and abused childhood, but (and here's where the suspension of disbelief is essential) we are not meant to attribute the earthly presence of her demons entirely to mental imbalance or psychological damage. Along with sharp satire and humor that is, well, beyond black, the book is full of precisely drawn characters both living and passed, who are uncomfortably true to life. Not what I would call an enjoyable read, but one I've completed with great admiration for the author's skill.
Oh, that daughter of mine, Stasia! I'm sure you understand the situation!
I enjoyed your review of Confederates in the Attic. In my travels in Georgia I have seen a small structure that was once part of a slave market. They don't advertise it but they don't tear it down either. When I was much younger I thought things would change when people with those ideas died off but now I know better.
>44 laytonwoman3rd:: as the aforementioned "one without finishing it" allow me to praise your fine review. I am always filled with remorse when I give up on a book. I have no intention of going back to this one but I know I missed something.
Thanks, Laura. I'm slowly getting over that remorse thing---some books just aren't "it" for some people, or the timing is wrong. I think it's a good thing to realize it and move on to something more suitable.
Just came here to tell you I just finished The Tiger's Wife, so I can lean on your shoulder in complete understanding for a moment.
3. At Mrs. Lippincote's by Elizabeth Taylor. I decided to participate in the Elizabeth Taylor Centenary group, which is reading her novels in publication order. I may not get through all of them, but this is an author I do enjoy, so we shall see as the year progresses.
Roddy and Julia Davenant, with their young son Oliver and Roddy's cousin Eleanor, move into a furnished house outside London, where Roddy is posted with the RAF during WWII. His job is not specified, but he is a non-combatant whose Wing Commander seems to have taken him ... well, under his wing. The author casts her very sharp eye on all of these characters, as well as a few more, giving us a rather merciless picture of their everyday lives. Julia is bored and cynical, sick of living in "other people's houses". Roddy is a bit of a prig; the Wing Commander too paternalistic by half; Eleanor bitter from years of unrequited love for (you guessed it) dear Roddy. This sounds like an unpleasant collection of people, and they sometimes do come off that way, but mostly they just seem like people you might know mumbling along as best they can. (Oliver is the exception---a delightfully odd little boy, often sick but never sickly, a reader of Kidnapped and Jane Eyre, wiser by far than the adults in his life.)
The relationship between Roddy and Julia is more complex than it appears at first. They each have their inner lives and outside-the-home activities that do not really include the other; we're coming into their lives in media res, so how they got to this point is left to our imagination. How did they come to be married in the first place? Were they "in love"? Was it a marriage of some convenience on both sides? How much time have they spent apart during their marriage? Did they once communicate more and lose the skill, or just never develop it properly at all? We do see flashes of mutual affection, and appreciation. I got the impression that with a little effort and determination from each of them, this marriage could be a much more comfortable arrangement.
>54 laytonwoman3rd:: I got the impression that with a little effort and determination from each of them, this marriage could be a much more comfortable arrangement.
Yes, I know what you mean. They seem like a couple that might have been quite happy at first, but over time the "spark" died. Although there is the matter of Roddy's infidelity. Was that the cause of the distance between them? Or was it an effect, the marriage already having lost its luster?
Lovely review, Linda. I've not read any Elizabeth Taylor but I've always been curious about her.
I tried to read this one a few years ago and aborted the mission. I don't know if it will be manageable now or not, but I liked your review of it.
Elizabeth Taylor is one of those authors on my "must read someday" list. I just have never been able to enjoy books from that era. We'll see....
4. Every Day by the Sun by Dean Faulkner Wells. A delightful memoir written by William Faulkner's niece, Dean Faulkner Wells, who just died last year. She and her second husband founded and ran Yoknapatawpha Press, a small regional publishing house named for Faulkner's fictional county. Her book is mainly about her growing up within the Faulkner clan, and while she does not leave out the darker elements of Bill and Estelle's binging and fighting; his endless affairs with young women, or Dean's own mother's abusive second marriage, she doesn't talk about any of those things in much detail either. Her goal, clearly, was to preserve and share her memories of good times and beloved people, one of whom just happened to be pretty famous. From the moment of her birth, four months after her father died in a plane crash, little Dean Faulkner was surrounded by loving grandparents, uncles and aunts, who were all determined to give her the best life possible. Foremost among them, her Uncle Bill (who she and many others in the family called "Pappy") vowed to take care of her, make her happy, and stand in her father's place whenever necessary. The book is full of bits and pieces of treasure---family lore, the laughing moments, the warm and fuzzy bits. Some stories I've heard before, but many more have not been told in all the Faulkner biographies I've read. Ms. Wells had a gift for bringing people to life, and in this short volume has made William Faulkner's wife Estelle a living, breathing, likeable person. I can't recall any of his biographers even having taken a stab at that. If you know next to nothing about Faulkner, you could do much worse than to begin your acquaintance with Every Day by the Sun. And if you've already met, take Ellen Gilchrist's advice and "Burn the deconstructionists' texts", read this book and then read Go Down, Moses, Sartoris and The Reivers (the last two are my recommendations, not Ms. Gilchrist's). Highly recommended; Pappy would have been proud.
Thanks for that review. It sounds like a very accessible accompaniment to Faulkner's work.
At Mrs. Lippincote's is one of the Elizabeth Taylor's I haven't read yet Linda. Will have to bring that up a TBR pile!
4. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson SO good. More later.
Ever since I read Robinson's Home and Gilead I've been holding this one, her first novel, in reserve for just the right time. I don't know how I knew, but the right time came last week. What a beautifully written book; sentence after sentence perfectly wrought, and the point of view so clear that you would swear this was almost pure autobiography. (A quick scan of her Wikipedia bio will attest that it is not.)
The story begins when two young sisters, Ruth (the narrator) and Lucille, are left on their grandmother’s porch on a Sunday morning, with a box of graham crackers for sustenance, instructed by their mother to “wait quietly”. Having never met their grandmother, they did just that, while their mother used the borrowed car they had arrived in to drive off a cliff into the glacial lake north of town. Into this same lake their grandfather, many years before, had disappeared when the train he was traveling in nosed off a bridge and “slid into the water like a weasel sliding off a rock”. The lake is an incredible presence in this novel, emanating sounds and smells, flooding and receding, holding in its depths the very secrets of life and death.
When their grandmother dies (of simple natural causes), Ruth and Lucille come under the care of their aunt, Sylvie, a former "transient" (most people would say hobo) who moves in with them in the house where she herself grew up. Sylvie is used to living outdoors, eating whatever there is to be had, and seems to be most comfortable alone in utter darkness. She is drawn to the lake and to the trains that pass through the town of Fingerbone. Once again the pattern of their lives alters drastically for Ruth and her sister; school becomes optional, meals irregular, housekeeping consists of stacking empty cans along the walls of the parlor and piling newspapers and magazines to the ceiling, as Sylvie viewed the “hoarding of worthless things to be proof of a particularly scrupulous thrift”. Eventually, inevitably, the community and the authorities take an intense interest in Ruth’s welfare. Equally inevitably, as will be obvious to anyone who has read Huckleberry Finn, civilization must lose the ensuing contest.
The sheer poetry of the writing in Housekeeping transcends the relative simplicity of the story line. Subtly, without ever becoming ponderous, layer upon layer of metaphor fill the pages. The elements ---water, darkness, wind—are always at play; the world of dreams and death encroaches on reality in a thoroughly non-threatening way. I will not get this book out of my mind for a long time. And when I do, I will read it again.
I don't know. I just don't know. Can a boy ever come in here and NOT be mugged by a book-wielding maniacally laughing pusher?
Experience says no.
#64 Wow....Imagine if I'd actually said something about the book!
#65. No, Richard. Just read what I say, and you won't get hurt.
Adding Every Day the Sun to the BlackHole, Linda. It looks too good to pass up. Thanks for the recommendation!
Read housekeeping probably 20 years ago and still have some vivid memories of reading it. Agree - so good. In fact, i should make it a re-read for this year. Thanks for the suggestion!
I think Housekeeping is a strong contender for the best novel of the last half of the 20th century. Home and Gilead were very good, Housekeeping achieves greatness.
#69, 70, 71 Laura, you will love it, I'm sure. And Tui, you too. Stephen, you won't get an argument from me, although I might have to place one or two others in strong contention.
I've done the actual review now.
#63 - Sounds like something I'd like. I just added it to my wishlist.
I just figured out the thumb thing (as in thumb thing tellth me I'm into thumb thing good) and stopped by your review to add mine. Beautifully done!
Thank you all...and especially you, Stephen, because now I'll have that song in my head all evening!
Chiming in as another fan of Housekeeping; had to read it for an English class way back in college and loved the professor for assigning it.
WOW. That's all I can say. Excellent review, Linda ... onto the wish list it goes!
4.2 Swamplandia! by Karen Russell Uh, no. Gave this one a DNF after 100 pages. Just not my cup of gatorade. I'm not getting the humor, the spookiness, or the suspense so highly praised by all the blurbers.
I'm wit you, BooBoo. That was an aborted mission for me too. Besides, I hate swamps and am not very fond of alligators.
I will also add to the above that I don't see the lush and lovely prose, or exquisite turn of phrase that even those who didn't like the book point out in their reviews. It just did not impress me in any way whatsoever.
I think you were extremely generous to give it 100pp! I'm less and less tolerant as I grow older. Some books barely make it to the 49pp mark so I can legitimately Pearl Rule them.
#84 Well, it went fast, I'll give it that.
#85 Thank you. I can always count on you to appreciate my humor. Must be genetics.
#80: I am continuing to give Swamplandia! a pass. Darryl reviewed it recently and did not like it either, so I am just going to stay away.
Linda, I just gave you your 13th (!) thumbs up for the exquisite review of Housekeeping. I've read this book several times over the years and have bought numerous copies to give to friends. They don't all fall under the spell of Robinson's writing. You might say it's my litmus test to find out who the "real" readers are amongst my friends. ;-)
I hope more people read it after they read your review... and then go on to read her more recent novels. I must say that Gilead was worth the long wait.
Yep. The only reason I finished Swamplandia! is because I didn't think I'd have time to read any other books for Orange January. Otherwise I would have chucked it at the 50 page mark. This was one of The New York Times' 10 best books of 2011?
#89 Hard to figure, isn't it, Darryl? It isn't the first Orange nominee that has seemed an odd choice to me, but it's the oddest.
Thanks to your fine review, I just snagged a copy of Housekeeping in a Betterworld Books one-day bargain bin blowout sale. I needed to buy 4 books to qualify for the 30% discount, found 3 Virago Modern Classics quite easily, and then said to myself "hmmm, what could the 4th book be?" I'm so glad they had this one!
Yay! So glad. Did you leave any Viragoes in the bin at all? I haven't had a chance to go look myself.
You write excellent reviews! I wish I could double star you! I have had "Housekeeping" for years on the TBR pile and I will surely read it soon.
#93 LOL! I KNEW that!
#94 Well, thank you....and thanks for dropping by! I see by your reviews that you are another fan of James Lee Burke. I really must try to get my hands on some of the audio books; you're the second person to recommend Will Patton as a reader. I've read all the Robicheaux novels, and most of the others. I would enjoy going through some of the books a second time in audio. (Love your little dog, too!)
5. Accordion Crimes by Annie Proulx This is a dense, rich, packed-to-the-rafters attic of a novel. Totally engrossing, but with so many story lines, so many sets of characters, so much detail, that I felt rather like I was reading a Russian novel, or perhaps 4 or 5 books at a time. The writing, as always with Annie Proulx, just grabs you and won't let go, but just when I'd start to feel invested in one bunch of characters, she'd leave them behind and move on to another group, any of which could have supported a very fine novel all by themselves. The central character of this book is a small green, hand-made, two-button accordion, and the focus of Proulx's storytelling is the instrument's long life history as it passes from its maker down the generations through multiple owners, with long periods where it lies forgotten in pawn shops or storage rooms, guarding its very own secret until its final sad days. I can't imagine the research that must have gone into this novel, which takes the reader from late 19th century Sicily to late 20th century Minnesota, from one immigrant culture to another, along the way embracing food, music, occupations, lifestyles, geographies...all of it feeling absolutely authentic. I loved it and want to start from the beginning to experience it all again.
Great review, Linda. The Shipping News is the only Annie Proulx I've ever read but I really loved that at the time. I don't know why I've never gone back to her. Thanks for putting her back on my radar.
#96 - Nice review. I'll put that one on my wish list. I had a bad experience with a short story of hers (I can't remember the name, but it involved a strange family and grotesque characters ) in a class and have never explored her other work.
#101 The book certainly is not broken into discreet short stories; it's more like a series of novellas that flow into one another. Sometimes the boundaries are hazy, and sometimes they are distinct, even abrupt. The common thread is accordion music, with one particular accordion re-appearing over and over. Like The Shipping News, its structure is hard to categorize. If it intrigues you, I'd recommend you give it a try. I'm still thinking about it, and wondering if I really should start over right away. I think it's definitely a book you could appreciate even more the second time through.
This thread will observe a moment of silence to honor the memory of Charlie Callahan, our LT friend Brainflakes, who passed away yesterday afternoon.
A wonderful, funny, enormously kind man who will be missed. Glad we "met", Charlie.
>>96 laytonwoman3rd: - my fingers grazed Accordian Crimes recently Linda, maybe it is time to nudge it into one of the 2012 prospects list! I read AP's book about her house last year (forgotten the title off the top of my head), but its been a while since I have sunk into her lovely dense quicksand of a novel.
Bird Cloud is the one about building her house, I think, Caroline. "lovely dense quicksand"----I like that; it's very apt.
6. The Vesuvius Club by Mark Gatiss The first of the Lucifer Box novels, this is a send-up of all sorts of British creations, from Bertie Wooster to James Bond, complete with madmen bent on destroying the world, and not leaving out Dickensian naming conventions. In short, a romp worthy of the Monty Python crew, but just a tad less ridiculous. Mark Gatiss has written for the British TV comedy The League of Gentlemen and the latest Dr. Who series, and if I tell you that his authorized biography states that he "lives in a laboratory with a stuffed cat", it may go a long way toward enlightening you as to what you should expect from him. 'Twas fun.
I hope you can find it, Carly. My library had it "in storage", and I had to make them dig it out!
7. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck Sometimes I forget how blisteringly beautiful Steinbeck's writing can be. My re-read of this one was prompted by my husband, who is reading Stephen King's 11/22/63, in which reference is made to a high school production of a play based on the novella. Some compositions are just purely perfect, and OMM is one of them. I urge everyone to read it.
*Caveat for the Mayflower: it will wreck you. Read it anyway.
Caveat noted. And appreciated. (Though I'd got that one pretty squarely filed under "will wreck you" already.)
Have had The Vesuvius Club wishlisted for a while. Looked into it for the Kindle but came over all Scottish and balked. Might break down if my glasses aren't forthcoming soon (new script).
Posit surname spellings are never perverse, but always quite interesting.
Hi Linda3rd! Accordion Crimes is a shameful lacuna in my reading resume. I shall endeavour to fill it forthwith in 2012. Liked the review most awfully, don't you know.
#117 I don't know about the "shameful" part...but by all means fill in the gap. And thank you.
I'm sorry to be so far behind. I'm stopping by and waving hi.
. . . . .
Given your objection, I thought the "Gates" part might be interesting to you. =p
Quite right, Caroline. I think you and I share a long-standing love for Steinbeck? As it turns out, my husband also read Of Mice and Men over the weekend -- he had never read it before. (For an English major, there are stunning gaps in his reading history!)
Just passing through, Linda, but I can't be quiet about it. I had looked at *Vesuvius* once and am off to look again.
>>122 laytonwoman3rd: So far Linda, of all the Steinbeck I have read, the only one that I have tussled with (and so far failed, but plan another attempt this year) is East of Eden which has a strong misogynistic feel for me. In the first 50 pages he has nothing good to say about any of his women (last attempt to read it was probably about 15 years ago). I never found that with any of the other books, though I still have The Grapes of Wrath to read. But then I never like to gobble up the whole oeuvre of a dead writer too quickly, as they can't write me any more! I still have some short stories of F Scott Fitzgerald unread!
Hmmm...well there is only one woman in OMM, and she's thoroughly unlikeable as well. The G rapes of Wrath, of course, gives us Ma Joad, a mighty wonderful female character.
8. Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls A novelized biography of the author's grandmother, a woman with pioneer sensibilities, that is to say a tough, resourceful, fearless and unsentimental sort. An admirable woman in many ways, she also had significant human flaws which in the end put her at odds with her children. This was a fast, absorbing read, and I'm probably going to take up Walls' first book, a more conventional memoir, The Glass Castle soon.
I keep meaning to read either of Walls' books. I'll be interested to hear what you think of The Glass Castle.
9. The Girl in the Blue Beret by Bobbie Ann Mason Although this book started out a bit slowly for me, and I had trouble engaging with the main character, I'm glad I stuck with it, because it turned out to be a lovely, moving story. Marshall Stone was a WWII bomber pilot, shot down over Belgium. He managed to land his plane in a field, and was saved, hidden and eventually escorted over the Pyrenees to safety in Spain by Belgian farmers and members of the French resistance, including a schoolgirl in a blue beret. Thirty-six years after the end of the war, now a commercial pilot forced by airline regulations to retire at age 60, Marshall finds himself at loose ends and uncertain what his life is all about. His wife has died, his grown children are distant. He decides to move temporarily to France, and to attempt to locate some of the people who helped him survive and escape to freedom. Although told from Marshall's point of view, the heart and soul of this novel rest in the person of the title Girl, who seems likely, once again, to be the instrument of his salvation.
I haven't read Bobbie Ann Mason in years, but when I did I enjoyed her work. She seems to have branched out since I read her, as the stories I read seemed to focus on her home region of Kentucky. It's remarkable that the protagonist was smuggled all the way from Belgium to Spain; I read a novel years ago that partly involved people being smuggled across the Pyrenees, but I think they started out more in the south of France. It was Gone to Soldiers by Marge Piercy, which I really loved when I read it, but that was back in the 80s too.
10. Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay Continuing with France and WWII. I read this one purely because a friend urged it on me. It confirmed my impression that it wasn't something I would have chosen for myself, but parts of it were very well done. It's another dual story of now and then, this time with an American female journalist trying to find out what happened to a particular young girl who was caught up in the "deportation" of Jews from Paris in 1942. This one has a bit too much modern drama in it, which I think detracts from the real story. And, of course, too much coincidence to suspend my disbelief. I also rather disliked the modern protagonist as presented, because in the face of the stunning historical story she was "researching", she let it become all about herself. Her husband, arrogant bastard that he was, was a more interesting character, and their daughter, Zoe, was a small wonder--I loved her. I did learn some things about the situation in occupied France during the war, though, and reading this book will definitely lead me to pursue the subject further. For that reason, I'll give Sarah's Key 3 stars, but I won't recommend it.
Hmm Linda, a few writers hear I haven't heard of. The Jeanette Walls looks interesting.
Rebecca, I know I have Gone to Soldiers somewhere. Haven't read Marge Piercy in years. Except a memoir a few years back which was quite interesting.
11. Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward A tough, beautiful novel about people living on the edge ---the edge of poverty, of society, of survival. This story is as powerful as Hurricane Katrina, which features prominently in it. Good fortune is not something the Batiste family knows much about. Fifteen-year-old Esch, the narrator of the story, has seen a lot of life’s troubles already, having lost her mother when she was 8, and having shouldered much of the responsibility of raising her baby brother Junior, who we suspect has suffered some brain injury during the birth that caused their mother’s death. Esch has been sexually active for 2 or 3 years, finding it easier to let her older brother’s friends do what they want than to fight them off. Her only dreams are centered on Manny, a scarred but handsome young man we know will never fulfill them. Esch’s brothers, Randall and Skeetah, each have their own dreams: Randall wants to go to basketball camp where he hopes a scout may see him play and open the door to college. Skeetah has a fierce love for his fighting dog, China, and her first litter of pups. Daddy, when not entirely incapacitated by drink, is obsessed with preparing for the big storm he instinctively knows is coming. The family subsists on canned meat, Ramen noodles, rice, and eggs gathered from their free-roaming chickens. Mama kept a small vegetable garden, but no one else has taken the trouble to keep it up since she died. These are strong people, extremely self-reliant, with not a shred of self-pity evident. If this were not true, their lives would be unbearable, not just for them, but for us to read about. It still requires some of the detachment you would bring to Greek tragedy, but If you can manage that, you’re in for a profound reading experience.
I will add the caveat most reviewers have felt necessary: If you simply cannot stomach reading about bad things happening to animals, give this one a pass.
I have a gift card burning a hole in my pocket. I just might buy that one.
great review, but I can't do bad things to animals or babies, gonna have to give it a pass.
12. Palladian by Elizabeth Taylor Taylor's second novel. Just a wonderful almost-gothic read. A sort of 20th century Jane Eyre without the crazy woman in the attic. Perfect characters---waspish women and pain-ridden men. Crumbling mansions. And ghosts of a sort. Loved it.
#142 Now I'm about 60 pages into Dissolution, and enjoying it, too. I expect you'll be glad about that as well?
13. Dissolution by C. J. Sansom
In the aftermath of Henry VIII's assumption of the role of Head of the Church in England, monasteries are being shut down and their finances investigated by specially appointed Commissioners. Matthew Shardlake, a reformist lawyer, is dispatched by Thomas Cromwell to a crumbling monastery to figure out who lopped off his predecessor's head and to finish the investigation that murder so rudely interrupted. I loved the historical setting of this Tudor England mystery, and the personal development of the main character as the story went along. The solving of the mystery was not as smoothly handled as I might have liked---too many conclusions jumped to, too many red herrings---but for a first novel, it's really very good and full of mighty promise for even better things to come. So many people have loved this series that I'm sure my inclination to read more of it is sound. In fact, I want to run to the library today and see if they have the next one on the shelf. But I won't do that, because I'm determined to get a few of my own TBR's knocked off before borrowing anything more. And I think I'll choose next a book in which no one is crushed by falling masonry.
And I think I'll choose next a book in which no one is crushed by falling masonry.
My favorite line of the day, Linda!
Thanks Joe. I find it extremely funny that in the last two books I read, of such different types, and set several centuries apart, that common plot element should appear. I should be keeping a list of these coincidences. A couple years ago I read two books back-to-back in which the main female character was named Mildred. What are the chances?
The chances sure do seem slim, Linda. It sounds like a Take It Or Leave It (TIOLI) LT challenge - "read two books with people crushed by falling masonry, or two featuring a main character named Mildred."
I can't remember ever having had that happen. Now you've got me thinking - if I have a coincidence like that, I'm going to make note of it, too.
>146 jnwelch:: The solving of the mystery was not as smoothly handled as I might have liked---too many conclusions jumped to, too many red herrings
I felt the same way Linda. The first time Shardlake jumped to a conclusions I said, let's see, how many pages are left? And quickly concluded he must be wrong. I didn't think to attribute this to its being a debut novel, but it's the main reason I rated it 3.5 stars instead of something more. I'm eager to read the next one.
Himself had the same criticism, Laura and Linda. He does get better at this aspect as the books go on but it was the whole shebang I liked because the history is so excellent--this continues to be excellent as the books progress. It helps that I love this era.
14. Brother, I'm Dying by Edwidge Danticat A difficult and disturbing memoir of life in Haiti through many tumultuous times. Danticat, who spent much of her childhood in the care of her Aunt and Uncle in Haiti after her parents left for America, tells the parallel stories of her father and his brother against the background of political unrest, violence, natural disasters and bureaucratic inhumanity. It must have been an incredibly hard story for her to tell, as parts of it were almost impossible for me to read, particularly the last several chapters, in which the U.S. Customs & Immigration officials come out looking no better than their Haitian counterparts. The author lived through some of the events she chronicles here, and reconstructed the rest from official records and family accounts. I admire the skill and strength it took to put this on paper; I wish I could take away a feeling that either I or the circumstances described in Brother, I'm Dying have been improved in any way by my having read it. It just made me feel bad, and I wish I had put it in the freezer.
Linda, I know exactly how you feel Danticat writes so well, but her stories are heart-breaking, gut-wrenching, and I suspect for many of us, just too intense to comprehend. We here in the US have our horror stories, but I doubt many of us have gone through what this young woman reports in her stories. Our book group just finished reading Danticat's Farming of Bones - another of her Haitian horror stories. We all agreed we wanted to learn more about the history of this tortured land and people, but none of us was willing to dive in right away. Bless you for finishing and reporting on this. And to others, reading Danticat's books is certainly a horizon expanding experience. You will not be the same person when you're finished.
15. The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander Sigh. I was really enjoying this "novel of the last Tsar", as it is subtitled. A tale told by an old man living in America, who reveals himself to be Leonid Sednyov, former kitchen boy in the household of Tsar Nicholas II, who accompanied the royal family into their lengthy house arrest, and because of his youth and insignificance was sent away by the Red Guards before the family was murdered on the night of July 17, 1918. Using the common literary device of a final letter revealing long-kept secrets, to be opened only upon his death, the narrator ostensibly tells an insider's story of what really happened in The House of Special Purpose during the month before the end came for the Romanovs. And he explains how he managed to sneak back to the house and watch the whole grisly scene through a barred window, how he followed the truck that took away the bodies of Nicholas and his family, how he knew where the bodies were disposed of, and what happened to the two that were not found with the others after the fall of Communism. All this, for the benefit of the old man's granddaughter, and to enjoin her to return to Mother Russia the Romanov treasures he had spent a lifetime recovering and hiding in an elaborate vault in his home. Fanciful, a bit of a stretch, but nothing quite so fantastic as the stories that circulated for decades, igniting so many romantic imaginations, of various women who claimed to be or were presented as the Grand Duchess Anastasia, a miraculous survivor of the massacre. If the author had left it at that, this would have been a satisfying, imaginative historical novel. But he had to try to jump the shark, and he missed. I won't slip in any spoilers, but suffice it to say the "surprise ending" set forth in the Epilogue is not only pure foolishness, but it's badly written, whereas the rest of the story was quite well-told. This novel shares an unfortunate failing with several others I've read --The Girl in the Blue Beret, People of the Book, Sarah's Key--in that the modern frame for the historical story just doesn't work very well.
>>#148 People have been reading The Castle Of Otranto, which opens with someone crushed to death by a falling giant stone helmet - would that do?? :)
Ah, yes...I remember that one. My husband read it back in our college days, and it was a running joke. It's a cheap literary trick, often used, apparently. I'm sure Monty Python has had a go at it some time or other.
Two book bullets from you. I've added The Girl in the Blue Beret and Salvage the Bones.
I read The Kitchen Boy a few years ago. I agree with your comments regarding the ending. I did like the fact that Robert Alexander creatively took a sentence from Alexandra's diary regarding the kitchen boy not being with them on a specific day and from this Alexander wove a novel.
opps, went to add Salvage The Bones and see that Daryl recommended this one and it is already on the tbr pile...I'll need to move this one up in the queque.
I know it's a rare sighting of a strange bird here, but I've popped over to see what you've been reading (I know we do hear what each other is reading when we meet in various clandestine spots, but sometimes its nice to see an individual's whole list, ya know?). Bobbie Ann Mason. Her name popped up recently in something I read (no, not on LT), so I am intrigued to see it here (I think it was something about In Country. Have you read her 1970s lit crit of Nancy Drew books?
Glad to see you enjoyed the Jesmyn Ward. She is just a wonder with characters, isn't she? Her first book was like that also but without the suspense of a Cat 5 hurricane in the background.
#162 Absolutely the best author's (or anybody's) website ever. I will now buy and read everything he writes, just because.
That's a very cool website. Thanks for the link. I've read and liked his first two Dr. Siri mysteries and plan to read more.
16. The Lucky Cat by Frances and Richard Lockridge Along with their Mr. and Mrs. North series of mysteries, and the Inspector Heimrich series, the Lieutenant Shapiro procedurals and the various stand-alone suspense novels Frances and Richard Lockridge wrote three children's books featuring cats, The Proud Cat, The Nameless Cat and The Lucky Cat. This one is my favorite. It's just a delight. When the new maid leaves the apartment door open while accepting a grocery delivery, Flutters, a young seal point Siamese, scoots out into the hallway bound for adventure in the wider world. She narrowly escapes disaster when she encounters a territorial tough cat, a large dog, traffic, and a clueless band of young boys. Nearly given up for lost by her frantic family, Flutters is rescued by one of those same boys, and, as we expected all along, is safely returned to Mr. and Mrs. Barnes, Patty & Howdy, none the worse for her adventures, and not at all interested in having any more. There are several layers of goodness in the ending---and the reader can see them all coming. I wish this book were still readily available, because I heartily recommend it as an intelligent book to read aloud to the young'uns.
17. Thirty-Three Teeth by Colin Cotterill This is the second in a series of mysteries featuring Laotian national coroner, Dr. Siri Paiboun. These are set in the late '70's, under the new Communist regime in Laos. Dr. Siri is the reluctant holder of his office, having no particular qualifications for the job other than being one of the few doctors who didn't "swim across the river" to Thailand to avoid the troubles that were obviously coming after the overthrow of the royalist Lao government. Dr. Siri is irreverent, scornful of the government, downright subversive in his mild-mannered fashion, and yet quite conscientious about doing his job to the best of his ability with his preposterously limited resources. He is also the receptacle of an ancient shaman's spirit, a fact of which he was blissfully ignorant for the first 70-some years of his life. He has a very big heart and a fine sense of the ridiculous, which allows us to see the whole bureaucratic mess as farce rather than tragedy. I'm having great fun with this series, and while I'm not consuming them at Ms. Tiffin's pace, I do have the next one on hand, and it probably won't be long before I gulp that one down as well.
>166 laytonwoman3rd:: ackshully, as they say on lolcats, it's all your fault I'm reading the Dr. Siri series. I had quite forgotten about them until you reminded me that they had been the favourites of a certain dear Irish chap. You've summed it up nicely.
I'm finding a big drawback with the Kindle is leafing back through pages to give my memory a jolt--if it's possible, I haven't figured out how to do it yet, other than backing up a page at a time.
I take complete credit and/or blame for bringing this series back to your attention. Charlie is never far from my thoughts as I read these books and others that I know he did or would have enjoyed. I still have a few of his recommendations on hand that I haven't read yet. Spacing them out.
That aspect of reading (browsing through the pages) is one of the things that keeps me from considering a Kindle...and now someone will probably tell us both that there's a very simple way to do it.
I have the third and fourth Dr. Siri here, and No 1. is on reserve at the library, but there are still 8 people ahead of me in the queue. I'm trying to finish the Maisie Dobbs series (just started the latest one), before I start a new series. So glad these continue to delight because I'm really looking forward to them.
18. Speaking in Tongues by Jeffery Deaver A solid three star suspense thriller with some excellent psychological game-playing. A speed read.
19. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman Not a mystery, but I was inspired to read it by reading Thirty-Three Teeth, set in 1970's Laos. This book deals with the culture clash between Hmong refugees from Laos in the same time period and American doctors called upon to treat their epileptic child. Well-written, fascinating, and compassionate to both points of view.
20. When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson This one isn't really a mystery either, although many mysterious things happen in it. It's just a really good suspenseful read, with a heck of a protagonist ---16-year-old Reggie Chase, an orphan who does just fine for herself, thank you. Most of the time. Although she runs into many a spot of trouble, and lies when the truth might serve her better, she's getting the hang of life on her own, and I love her for it. This novel again features Jackson Brodie, who is not quite so interesting in this one, and really does very little to move the action. The story could have been told without him, his part in it played by an Anyman, except for the connection to Chief Inspector Louise Monroe. This was definitely a book to get lost in and hard to beat for sheer entertainment. One quibble --- TOO many quotes and literary/cultural allusions. Darned near one to a page. A few of those scattered about are fun. This level of saturation is a distraction. Still highly recommended for those who appreciate Atkinson.
21. Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch by Alice Hegan Rice A re-read from my childhood. My original copy of this book belonged to my grandmother, who used to read it to me. It's falling apart and wouldn't stand up to another read. I found a more sturdy copy at a library book sale this weekend, and read it in a sitting-and-a-half. A bit on the sentimental side, but short of outright mawkish. And in a most peculiar coincidence I found a small ribbon book mark about half way through with the ten commandments printed on it. It's just the sort of thing my grandmother would have owned.
Isn't Reggie a great character? I really enjoyed the storyline, too.
22. In the Woods by Tana French A gripping murder mystery, with lots of undertones from the past adding depth to the characters. Very hard to find "stopping places" in this one. Once the main mystery was resolved, though, the author seemed to have several dangly bits left over that she tacked up rather awkwardly, I thought. Still, impressive for a first novel, and highly promising for things to come.
>21 richardderus: I did a double take when I saw you had read this. I have an early 60s copy and I also enjoyed this as a kid though I would not think of reading it now.
Quick, Lois...where was the story set? That was such a surprise to me on this re-reading.
23. A View of the Harbour by Elizabeth Taylor Third of Elizabeth Taylor's novels, read now for her centennial. A bit slow off the mark, this novel rewards the reader's perseverance with Taylor's usual cold-blooded portrayal of human nature. Her ordinary people are so full of common quirks, uncommon eccentricities, pettiness and occasionally a dash of generosity that one almost has to squirm with recognition as they play their roles out on the page.
So many good mysteries over here--I need to leave before my wishlist explodes!
24. Fridays with Red by Bob Edwards Can't explain why I picked this book up at whatever library sale or used book store I found it in. I'm not a baseball fan, and do not remember Red Barber--not even his late life Friday morning segments on NPR with Bob Edwards. It did make interesting reading anyway, but I'm sure I would have appreciated it more if I did follow baseball, or had become acquainted with the Ol' Redhead during those four-minute moments between 1981 and 1992 when he was a fixture on the radio at 7:35 a.m. I'll give it 3 solid stars for being well-written, sprinkled with nifty facts about both baseball and radio, having just the right amount of good pictures, and not going on any longer than necessary.
I do love baseball and remember these segments fondly. I've always like Bob Edwards voice, too. Sounds like my cuppa.
25. Travels With Myself and Another by Martha Gellhorn. Lord, what a dame Martha must have been. Certainly no one ever accused her of being wishy-washy, adopting the party line on any issue, or practicing political correctness. I'm going to try to put together an honest-to-goodness review of this book, but for now I'll just say it's highly recommended if you want to sweep some cobwebs out of your braincase.
>182 laytonwoman3rd:: have you heard of the new film, Hemingway and Gellhorn, which will air on HBO? "A drama centered on the romance between Ernest Hemingway and WWII correspondent Martha Gellhorn, Hemingway's inspiration for For Whom the Bell Tolls and the only woman who ever asked for a divorce from the writer. " I'm intrigued and I haven't even read Gellhorn yet.
I believe I had heard something about that film, Laura. If you want to sample Gellhorn at her best, I recommend The View From the Ground, which is a collection of her journalism...a bit more polished than Travels and very thought-provoking perspectives on what is history for us, but was current events to her.
Linda, I haven't read the Gellhorn book, but will certainly put it on the list, as I do like her. Over the years I have seen several documentaries about her and read her novel and some other writing. Isn't there a photograph taken of her in Hitler's bath or something, rings a bell anyway.
ETA: No, that was Lee Miller
I remember seeing an exhibition of her work some years ago.
I don't really have anything intelligent to say (shocking, I know!), but I just wanted to drop in and say Good Morning!
Caroline, that photo of Lee Miller was actually taken by an old friend of mine, Dave Scherman. He traveled with Lee throughout the war and wrote the introduction to the Tony Penrose book, Lee Miller's War. Dave used to say that they swapped camera's so often that they sometimes couldn't remember which one of them had taken a particular photo. For great reading about both Lee Miller and David I highly recommend the Carolyn Burke book, Lee Miller, A Life.
#185, 187 Thanks for introducing me to Lee Miller, you two. I've put both books mentioned on the wishlist.
#186 Hiya, Amber! No need for showy intelligence here--friendly greetings are very much appreciated.
26. The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig It has taken me much too long to get around to Doig, whose story-telling skills, I now find, are among the best. This book lands solidly on Linda's Goodest Reads Ever list. It is set in Montana in 1910, the year Halley's Comet "came back". The narrator fits one of my favorite patterns---the adult looking back on a significant episode of his or her own childhood, and the characters are perfect, realistic, just-complicated-enough. I loved every one of them, even the scoundrels, as I'm sure I was meant to, and the story was beautiful too. Didn't hurt that it featured a lot of whistling (my Dad was a joyful whistler) and a pitch-perfect one-room school environment. No gratuitous violence, no incest or spousal abuse, no rebellious yout's, no heavy "issues", and only one minor character in the mold of Pap Finn, just for the spice of it. All five for this one.
Looked for a public review to thumb it, Linda--will just post a WOW!!! in lieu.
Thanks, Tui. I didn't think it was enough of a critique to warrant posting as a review.
27. Towards Zero by Agatha Christie The usual Christie---multiple potential suspects in a house together with some genuine clues and some red herrings. This one doesn't start with the crime, but leads up to it. A satisfying comfort read. And I almost figured it out.
You almost figured it out? That's more than I can claim with her mysteries - she stumps me every time!
28. The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley Audiobook version, read by Jayne Entwhistle. More correctly, this should say "performed" by Jayne Entwhistle. Entwhistle is masterful at characteization and multiple voices; her interpretation of Flavia's character is just inspired. The story line did get bit boggy, and Entwhistle's attempt to create a German accent for the former POW, Dieter, was downright painful. But overall this was fun, fun, fun, and Flavia really knows how to make an exit. "If anyone wants me, I shall be upstairs, weeping at the bottom of my closet!"
28.1 In the Dark Streets Shineth by David McCullough Not enough to count as a full number, this lovely little volume contains the text of David McCullough's narration at the 2009 Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert. He told the back stories of the Christmas songs, "O Little Town of Bethlehem" and "I'll Be Home for Christmas", in the context of the story of Christmas Eve, 1941, when Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt addressed the American people during the lighting of the National Christmas tree on the White House lawn. Churchill had come to the U.S. in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor, in great secrecy, as you can imagine. The public did not know in advance that he would be part of the ceremonies. On Christmas day, Churchill attended church with the Roosevelts, and heard "O Little Town of Bethlehem" for the first time. I gave this book to my mother for Christmas, and if it's still available it would make an absolutely perfect gift for some of those hard-to-buy-for people of a certain age. It contains a number of lovely pictures, as well as a DVD of McCullough's narration.
29. The Rosewood Casket by Sharyn McCrumb A pretty good read about families in the East Tennessee hills facing the issue of how to deal with the passing of the older generation, and what to do with ancestral lands; spiced up with an old mystery and couple of spirit visitors. Not bad at all in an undemanding sort of way.
#202 I enjoyed The Ballad of Tom Dooley, which is the only other one I've read so far. I thought that one had a bit more substance than The Rosewood Casket.
30. Singer; An Album by Ilan Stavans This is meant to be a companion to Isaac Bashevis Singer's work, very little of which is familiar to me. But the Album made interesting reading, just the same. It's part biography, part lit crit, and part memorial to the great author who for many is synonymous with Yiddish literature. Its title refers to the fact that it is loaded with photographs. I will certainly be exploring Singer's fiction with enthusiasm after reading this book.
#204 Sounds interesting. I haven't read Singer himself in some years.
#205 A couple of the essays mention that he was the first, and probably the last, Nobel Prize recipient to speak any Yiddish in the hallowed halls of the Swedish Academy. Made me chuckle.
I am delighted to report that, despite being 3 reviews behind with my ER books, I have just received notice that I'll be getting a copy of the second novel in Hilary Mantel's "Wolf Hall Trilogy"----Bring Up the Bodies. This makes me very happy. I had already decided to make a determined effort in May to read and review those neglected three ER books, so maybe this is my reward for good intentions!
You and Peggy!!! Talk about luck--I didn't apply this round as I still owe a review for an ER, as I thought there would be no chance. Just trundling by to see how you are trundling and I see you are trundling very well indeed. I read a Singer a thousand years ago but can't remember which one...
Congratulations on winning the Mantel, Linda! That's got to be the most coveted ER title of the year! Couldn't have happened to a nicer person.
* high fives Linda after high fiving Peggy *
I'm psyched for you too !!! I haven't applied for an ER in ages and definitely thought there'd be no chance on this one.
31. Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett A Discworld novel featuring Granny Weatherwax and a couple more witches, a man who might be king and a woman who would very much like that he should be. The best sort of ridiculous nonsense, taking off on Shakespeare, Tolkien and lots of others things in a Monty Python sort of way with dashes of Eddie Izzard. Never stretches itself too far; just when I say to myself "I SEE what you're doing there", he stops doing that and switches to something else. Tear-jerkingly funny at times. Highly recommended to those who savor this sort of silliness.
And courtesy of your son-in-law btw. Who has just said that. Let me know if you need another.
I dun know about husbeasts stealing the girl's compy and posting signed in as said girl.
In another post, elsewhere on this site, I did credit the impostor in No. 211 for
32. Hope: A Tragedy by Shalom Auslander
Pity Solomon Kugel. He is a man plagued by bodily functions and malfunctions; obsessed with settling on the perfect last words for the day he dies; burdened with family responsibilities and unable to arrive at the simplest of sensible decisions. Kugel has moved his family to an old farmhouse in a rural village, to avoid the hazards of city living and to make a fresh start after a terrible year in which his always sickly son, Jonah, nearly died of an “FUO”---fever of unknown origin.
Solomon feels guilty about his son’s illness, but this is not a new feeling. His first words to the infant Jonah were “I’m sorry”---an apology for bringing this tiny vulnerable person into the world at all. At the age of three, having survived the mysterious “bug”, Jonah seems to grasp life on a more sophisticated level than either of his parents. “We almost lost you there, little buddy, Kugel whispered to Jonah on the morning of their discharge…Lost me where? Jonah had asked…It means you almost died” his mother explained. “I’d rather be dead than lost", Jonah said…"Because if I’m dead I won’t know it.”
Solomon’s mother is part of his household, and she carries a mighty weight of suffering. Living in a town with no historical baggage whatsoever, she defines herself by a history in which she did not participate. She blames all personal troubles on “the war”, by which she means the Holocaust, despite the fact that she was born in 1945 in Brooklyn, a third generation American with no known relatives who were victims of the extermination. Mother periodically brings out a lampshade and claims it is Solomon’s grandfather, or uncle, or cousin. When the Made in Taiwan stamp on the shade is pointed out to her, her response is “Well, they’re not going to write ‘Made in Buchenwald’ on there, are they?” Mother is a terrible burden, but her doctors have assured Solomon that she has very little time to live, so he cannot just tell her to leave, as his wife demands. He humors Mother by strewing the back yard with fruits and vegetables, which she “harvests” on a daily basis, under the illusion that they have grown there from seeds she planted.
The house itself is beset by mysterious tapping sounds and horrendous smells. Not haunted, exactly, but something…no, as it turns out, someone is definitely living in the attic. That someone is a very old woman who claims that she is Anne Frank and that she has been living in this very same attic for 50 years--that she “comes with the house” and cannot leave until she finishes the novel she is writing. She’s responsible for both the noise and the stench that are making the house virtually uninhabitable, driving out the paying tenant who is essential to the financial stability of the Kugel household. Solomon can’t evict her, either. What if she really is Anne Frank, taking refuge again in an attic…and a Jew threw her out?
One can see that Hope: A Tragedy is meant to be darkly funny, like M.A.S.H. or Catch-22. But not one of the characters ever winks at the reader as if to say “You see how ridiculous??”, so humor fails to gain the upper hand. We are left with a cast of one-dimensional unsympathetic characters who bludgeon us with the point that life is downright nasty, and hope will just make you crazy.
>214 laytonwoman3rd: Oh dear. Thumbs-upped your review, but am deeply sorry you had to do that.
Tsk. Why is it that I'm always drawn to books that get terrible reviews? Curiosity and the cat, and all that, I suppose...
Not all the reviews are terrible, Amber. The writing in this one is quite good....I just didn't care for the purpose to which the author put his skills. And if you'd like my copy, I'd be thrilled to send it to you. Just PM me with your address.
Pass. Thanks for sparing us, Linda, and I hope your next read is more enjoyable.
I'm glad (?) to hear how bad that book was, because I read a story by Auslander once and was definitely unimpressed. Now I won't feel bad about not reading the novel.
Your review of the Auslander book was much better than the book you describe. It was good of you to warn the rest of us to avoid a book that could appear interesting on the surface.
Your review is a good reminder that Singer: An Album has been sitting on my shelf unread for too long. I really enjoyed his stories, especially the supernatural tales.
Hi, Linda. Just checking in to say that I finished *Bodies* last night and I'm as thrilled as I was when I opened my ARC. Hope you're enjoying it! And I will definitely avoid *Hope*. I hope your next one is better.
#224 Glad to hear it's a winner, Peggy. I'm excited about it.
#223 I don't know, Bill---my grandmother used to say "There's a lid for every pot". It's just a matter of matching them up. (She was usually referring to oddly matched couples, but still...) I know some people will appreciate Hope: A Tragedy better than I did. I remember reading Catch-22 in college and being helpless with laughter at the same time I wondered "what's wrong with me that I can laugh at such things??". Maybe it's just a stage of life thing.
#222 I'm glad to hear you've already formed an opinion about Auslander, Rebecca,a nd that it coincides with mine. I have to tell you it occurred to me once or twice that I wished you had read this novel because I'd trust your judgment of it, and if you saw something in it that I was missing I'd try harder to "get" it. Not that I don't think I understand what he was doing; I just didn't want to share in it.
#221 Thanks. I'm reading Townie now, by Andres Dubus, III. I wouldn't say it's "more enjoyable", exactly, because it's pretty grim too. But it's a better read anyway.
I'm glad to hear you're reading Townie. I know it's a tough read at times but I think it's really good and, having had a chance to hear Dubus read last year, I was really impressed with both the writer and the man. He's a wonderful reader, too.
33. My Lucky Life by Dick Van Dyke An audio book, read, or more accurately, told by Dick himself. This was good stuff, perfectly suited to commuter-listening, which is what I use audio books for. Pretty much what you would expect from loveable, laughable Van Dyke, but there's a lot more to him than Rob Petrie. He treats his alcohol addiction, the end of his long marriage, his relationship with the once-infamous Michelle Triola, and his artistic failures with what feels like humble honesty. And, as he warns you up front, if you're looking for dirt on Hollywood shenanigans, it ain't in there. If you like him, you'll like the book. And man, am I glad I had it with me last Thursday when I got caught in a two-hour traffic tie-up.
At one time DVD had the record for the worst fake accent ever recorded for his role in Mary Poppins. Wonder if it still holds?
That's funny, Tui...he talked about that, and he agreed that his accent was awful. He blamed it on having an Irish coach who couldn't do Cockney either. Then later in his life, he did something else (I don't remember what it was, because it was something I hadn't seen) which required a British accent, and he claims he did a much better job because he did have people around him he could imitate. But in the UK, apparently a "Van Dyke accent" is the term for a bad American attempt at sounding British. However, I personally think Mickey Rooney's fake Japanese "accent" in Breakfast at Tiffany beats poor Bert by a long rocky mile.
There was an American who played Robin Hood not that many years ago--his English accent was awful too.
34. Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton This collection of cartoons taking off on history and literature is about as quirky as you can get. The drawings appear crudely done, and yet Beaton can convey everything with just a squiggle of the eyebrow. I maintain my long-held belief that cartoonists are among our best modern philosophers. I don't get a lot of her references (what do I know about Canadian history, after all?) but the literary stuff in here is often ridiculously amusing.
35. Townie by Andre Dubus, III
Comments deferred while I go bird-watching. Husband has spotted an unusual wading bird foraging along the shore of the nearby beaver pond. Stay tuned.
ETA: We're certain it was a sandhill crane---very unusual for this geographical location. And there was just the one, but it settled down into the high grass as if it might be on a nest. I have reported it to eBird, the joint project of the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. As my husband walks for exercise along this pond several times a week, he'll be keeping his eyes open to see if this bird is sticking around.
ETA: This memoir is alternately disturbing and moving, as Andre Dubus, III, tells the story of his rough childhood and determination to get a grip on his life, first through physical strength and violence, and later through finding a way out of that trap into a more self-contained existence. Writing served as his escape route, and we are all the richer for that.
Also, I dun told you Sunday to stop all that thar reading.
The bird was too far away for pictures. Also, of course, I didn't have a camera with me... And it was a holiday weekend---I wouldn't be your mother if I hadn't spent a goodly portion of it with my nose in a book.
36. The United States Coast Guard and National Defense by Thomas P. Ostrom When my husband was in the U. S. Coast Guard, he "had the duty" every fifth night, which meant he reported for duty at 8:00 a.m. one morning, and did not stand down until at least 8:00 a.m. the next morning. As part of a Search and Rescue flight crew, he was on call for any incident that arose in his unit's territory during that 24-hour period, and naturally if a first-light search was called for, that 8:00 a.m. stand-down time meant nothing. Some nights, all was quiet, no one needed help, and the crew stayed in their bunks. Reading this "History from World War I to the Present" felt like having the duty non-stop for 95 years, without benefit of a bunk, although my eyes did try to close every few sentences. This is the absolute worst kind of history---a disorganized compilation of names and dates without the slightest hint of narrative flow, dry as stale toast. It read like 190 pages of footnotes. The author's overuse of acronyms and parentheses is maddening and makes some pages of the text almost unreadable. Oh, and did I mention his lack of objectivity? He might as well have sub-titled the book "A Republican History etc."
The Coast Guard traces its origins back to 1790, when George Washington created this country's first maritime naval force, then called the Revenue Marine, making it several years older than the U. S. Navy.
According to the USCG website, on an average day, the Coast Guard...
Saves 12 lives
Responds to 64 search & rescue cases
Keeps 842 pounds of cocaine off the streets
Services 116 buoys & fixes 24 discrepancies
Screens 720 commercial vessels & 183,000 crew & passengers
Issues 173 credentials to merchant mariners
Investigates 13 marine accidents
Inspects 68 containers
Inspects 29 vessels for compliance with air emissions standards
Performs 28 safety & environmental examinations of foreign vessels
Boards 13 fishing boats to ensure compliance with fisheries laws
Responds and investigates 10 pollution incidents
It has also had a long and honorable history of serving the country's national defense in wartime, guarding the coasts, patrolling the Great Lakes, operating landing craft for the invasion of Normandy, sinking a U-boat off the coast of North Carolina in 1942 and taking the first German prisoners of war captured by any U.S. force during WWII, flying rescue missions to recover downed pilots and crews in Viet Nam, plucking people from rooftops after Hurricane Katrina....these facts are all in the book, but the Guard deserves far better treatment than Ostrom's "history" has given it. There are some good photographs in the book, for which I'll grant it one distant star.
Not enough shoot-em-up stuff. Life saving ain't sexy, I guess.
Reading this "History from World War I to the Present" felt like having the duty non-stop for 95 years, without benefit of a bunk, although my eyes did try to close every few sentences.
Too funny! Why did you keep on reading it?
one distant star....that's not even damned with faint praise. I agree 100% about the Coast Guard. Hard, dangerous work, and unsung, for the most part. I was so glad when our search and rescue folk got a grant of money to honour Prince William and Catherine's visit: William's choice, of course.
#240 Ah....it was an ER copy, Rebecca. So I felt obliged. I notice that all the other ER reviews give it approximately the same level of admiration.
#241 We've been enjoying a program on the weather channel called Coast Guard Alaska It's good to see these people getting a bit of publicity. They do things a bit differently than they did 35 years ago, and Craig just eats it up.
Thanks for the explanation, Linda. I do think I should know more about the Coast Guard, but I'm not running out to get that book! It's been Fleet Week in NYC, so the streets have been filled with sailors in uniform They look younger every year!
37. Red Bird poems by Mary Oliver "Finished" this book mid-week, so I will add it to May's list, but really, I'm never going to be through with it. These poems are just so lovely----deceptively simple, with little barbs that get caught under my skin and keep drawing me back to them. Many, many thanks to the dear bird who introduced me to this poet.
I agree with Laytonwoman's review of this book. Search and Rescue and other missions that the Coast Guard do are all fraught with danger. The work the Coast Guard does takes courage and dedication, and this book didn't show any of the human side of the heroes mentioned in this book.
#245 Thank you for dropping by, Stephen, and for the concurrence. I read your review, and gave it a "thumbs up" as well. It's such a shame no one does justice to the Guard in print. I've requested another book from the ER program this month, Joining the United States Coast Guard, which is aimed at young people trying to decide on a military career...maybe you saw it as well. If I score a copy of that one, I'll be interested to see if it does a better job of "humanizing" the service.
This topic was continued by Laytonwoman's 2012 Summertime reading.
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